Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: Taking a serious view of crop damage by wild animals in Maharashtra, the state government has constituted a high-power committee, headed by chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi, to suggest measures to check the problem. 

The issue has been raised time and again in the state legislature. 

The committee comprises Satpuda Foundation president Kishor Rithe, Bombay Natural History Society director Asad Rahmani, Wildlife Institute of India scientist Bilal Habib, Wildlife Conservation Trust president Anish Andheria, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust trustee Poonam Dhanwatey, and chief conservators of forests of all the forest circles in Pune, Kolhapur, Mumbai, Amravati, Nagpur, Nasik and Chandrapur. 

The committee will identify the most critical villages and talukas for crop damage by wild herbivores and other wild animals. The panel will suggest measures to minimise such damage. It will explore government programmes such as changes to agricultural practice to reduce damage, erecting solar fencing, and possible sources of funding. Some members said that the panel will also study changes in current rules regarding the killing of wild boars and nilgais to ensure that it leads to desired results. 

In addition, the committee will identify dangers such as domestic pigs and feral cattle - which are not protected - but cause huge crop damage, which farmers think has been caused by wildlife. These animals should be freely allowed to be culled or removed. 

The committee has to submit its report with measures and funding requirement by October 10, 2013. 

The state has already increased compensation to farmers. In case of damage worth Rs 2,001-10,000, the compensation will be Rs 2,000 plus 75% of additional damage, with ceiling of Rs 8,000. Earlier, farmers were paid Rs 2,000 plus 50% of additional damage, with ceiling of Rs 6,000.

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